Thailand

An aerial view of the Kra Isthmus, the narrowest point of the Malayan Peninsula where the Kra Canal would be built. (iStock)

India’s obsession with Thailand’s Kra Canal and China's 'failure'

News that Thailand has “cancelled” its Kra canal project and replaced it with a land bridge has excited Indian observers. But you cannot scrap a plan that has not been approved. India's media reports highlighting both Chinese aggression and Chinese failure say more about the country's tensions with China than its concern with the idea of a century-old canal in Thailand.
A stretch of the 400-kilometre long China-Laos railway in Vientiane, 29 July 2020. (Xinhua)

China's Belt and Road Initiative faces huge challenges in Southeast Asia

Beijing has pledged financing, materials, technology and manpower to build railroads, hydropower stations and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asian countries under the BRI. But China continues to face enormous challenges getting projects off the ground in countries that need the investment most. US academic Murray Hiebert examines why.
A view of the Mekong river bordering Thailand and Laos is seen from the Thai side in Nong Khai, Thailand, 29 October 2019. (Soe Zeya Tun/REUTERS)

Chinese academics: Mekong must not become second South China Sea

China said that it would share year-round hydrological information of the upper Mekong with downstream countries during the recently concluded 3rd Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders' Meeting held via video conference. Will this help assuage fears that China is using the control of water flow in the Mekong as a lever, literally, to exert greater influence on the CLMVT (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand) countries in ASEAN? Chinese academics Zhai Kun and Deng Han warn that China and Southeast Asian countries must be wary of external forces politicising matters in the Mekong region.
Fighter jets from China's PLA Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force fly in tactical formation during exercise "Falcon Strike 2019" between the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force, August 2019. (Xie Zhongwu and Zhou Yongheng/Ministry of Defence China website)

Thai military deepens engagement with China amid pandemic

The Thai military has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to Chinese largesse, however, it will be able to secure the military kit it wants and continue its exercises with the People's Liberation Army.
A local villager drive a boat where the future site of the Luang Prabang dam will be on the Mekong River, outskirt of Luang Prabang province, Laos, February 5, 2020. (Panu Wongcha-um/REUTERS)

China-led Mekong project terminated as Thais protest: Participatory diplomacy in action?

Thailand has terminated a China-led project on the Mekong River, following resistance by locals and conservationists. ISEAS visiting fellow Supalak Ganjanakhundee explains how this will affect the future of the Mekong River.
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha during a special cabinet meeting to discuss measures to stop the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus at the Government House in Bangkok, April 3, 2020. (Handout/Royal Thai Government/AFP).

'Complex Engagement': Thailand's balancing act in foreign policy

Thailand has been navigating between East and West in its policy of "complex engagement", implemented since its military coup in 2014. ISEAS visiting fellow Supalak Ganjanakhundee examines how Thailand is delicately conducting its relations with regions and countries such as the EU and US, China and Japan, as well as its closest neighbours in mainland Southeast Asia.
The Mekong River at Sangkhom district in the northeastern Thai province of Nong Khai, with Laos seen on the right. The once mighty Mekong River has been reduced to a thin, grubby neck of water across Northern Thailand - record lows blamed on drought and a recently opened dam hundreds of kilometers upstream. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)

The Mekong River’s future and the role of China

The Mekong river is ecologically rich, and a source of life in more ways than one. However, its system is being threatened by the construction of dams by China. Independent scholar Milton Osborne examines the impact of human activity on the Mekong delta.
The Kra Isthmus in Thailand. For a long time, the idea of a canal has been proposed, but never realised. (iStock)

Thailand’s Kra canal project: Game changers and China’s involvement

The Kra canal project has been proposed and put on hold many times over the past three centuries. The latest effort comes in conjunction with China's Belt and Road Initiative, and has drawn both support and scepticism from within and outside Thailand. ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute senior fellow Ian Storey examines three potential game changers for the project.